Saturday, September 20, 2014

T-Birds Take Down Short Handed Hawks 4-1

It wasn't the celebration the 8,000 plus expected for the Winterhawks first game of the season last night, but due to the 9 expected regulars missing, it wasn't as devastating a loss as it would've had they been in attendance.

Ryan Gropp and Matthew Barzal proved why they are top prospects for this coming 2015 draft by putting a lot of quality chances on Adin Hill, who stood tall but could not make up for the Hawks missing offense. Portland jumped out to a 2nd period lead of 1-0 when 19 year old Tyson Predinchuk backhanded the rebound of a Layne Viveiros point shot home on the power play.

This goal seemed to wake up the T-birds who took over form there and scored 4 unanswered goals in the final 35:21 of the game to take home their first win in Portland, over their last 4 tries.

Notes from the Game:
-I don't know what 17 year old Seattle forward Keegan Kolesar did, but he was a target for many Hawks players throughout the game. He was also the recipient of Brendan Leipsic's flying head shot last year, so maybe this goes back a little far. At one point Kolesar took an extra smack at Hill's pads after the whistle and he quickly was buried by several Hawks.
-Barzal and Gropp played with many different forwards, in the absence of their regular linemate Justin Hickman.
-Barzal has a ton of speed and seems to be able to get pucks to high traffic areas at will, no matter the defender.
-16 year old D-men Carter Czaikowski and Brendan De Jong were forced into regular shifts with the absence of Anton Cederholm, Josh Hanson and Blake Heinrich. Czaikowski made several nice plays in and around his own net but made just an awful decision to pinch that led to the 2 on 1 Alexander True goal that was the eventual game winner.
-De Jong also had trouble adjusting to the speed of the T-birds, but I expect both of them to improve dramatically as they get used to playing at this level.
-Skyler McKenzie and Reed Morison were the only true Centers in the Hawks lineup so we got to see many Hawks try their hand at centering other line combinations. Paul Bittner, Alex Schoenborn and Jack Flaman were just some of these.
-McKenzie looked solid for the most part and was probably the Hawks best creator of offense. He made one pass into the slot from down behind the net that was reminiscent of a pass Nic Petan likes to make. He was slow however in back checking and covering Ryan Gropp in the slot for Seattle's 3rd goal.
-17 year old Evan Weinger showed a lot of skill and speed. I would look for him to take a spot on the Hawks eventual 3rd line with Ethan Price and whichever one of the Hawks between Dominic Turgeon and Keegan Iverson is forced to play 3rd line center.
-Scott Eansor had a poor game for the T-birds with several poor plays and 2 different minor penalties, including a kneeing call.
-Kaden Elder and Jack Flaman were both given 10 minute misconduct penalties as they were the late fight to get started in a 3 fight melee.
-This multiple fight situation earned both teams $500 fines for both Portland and Seattle.
-Seattle was 2/7 on the power play and Portland was 1/5.

3 Stars:
#3 Adin Hill: Hill made his season debut an impressive one as he stopped 33 of 37 shots, including about 3-4 impressive scrambling saves. He had to know with how many players were missing, that he was going to be forced to be the #1 star of the game in order for them to win.

#2 Ryan Gropp: Gropp was all over the place and was probably robbed by Hill 3-4 times, otherwise he would've had more than his 2 goals on the night.

#1 Matthew Barzal: Barzal was easily the best player on the ice all around. He struggled against the Hawks last season as he was hit every chance they got. He looks to have bulked up this season and has taken a large step forward in skill as well.

Elsewhere in the WHL:
-Brandon 4 vs. Regina 2: 18 year old Brandon Center Duncan Campbell had 2 assists and was a +3 in his 3rd career WHL game.
-Medicine Hat 3 @Lethbridge 2: The Hurricanes could only muster 18 shots on net, but did get 2 goals from their Russian import: Pavel Skumatov in his WHL debut.
 -Prince Albert 5 vs. Saskatoon 3: 20 year old P.A. D-man Sawyer Lange led the way with 1 goal and 2 assists.
 -Kootenay 5 @Red Deer 3: Balanced scoring was the story for the Ice, as 4 different players had 2 point apiece.
 -Swift Current 6 vs. Moose Jaw 0: 19 year old S.C. Center Jay Merkley had the season's first hat trick as he scored 3; 2 on the power play and one short handed.
 -Kamloops 6 vs. Victoria 3: Both Cole Ully and Josh Connolly had 1 goal and 2 assists for the Blazers, as they took down the Royals. Coleman Vollrath had an awful season opener for Victoria and was yanked after giving up 4 goals on only 14 shots.

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